Wendi Williams recently celebrated a year of volunteering in the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.
Imagine coming within a foot of a bald eagle. Now imagine a peregrine falcon hopping up on your wrist. For Plymouth vet tech student Wendi Williams, this is reality in her volunteer work with The Raptor Center (TRC) at the University of Minnesota.
“In 2010, SCNAVTA took a tour of the Raptor Center and Equine Center, and I found out they need volunteers,” Williams said. “After that I applied, and went through the training process to become a volunteer and have been there since.”
Williams works in the TRC’s education department where permanently injured birds are trained to help educate the public about what a raptor is, and what their benefits are.
“[Working with the educational birds] is phenomenal because they are still wild birds,” Williams said. “They have their own personality and it takes a while to get to know them.
It’s a learning process, and we have working relationships with the birds, but I can now go into eagle’s pens and drop their food for them.”
Prepping the birds for human interaction is a laborious task, according to Williams. It can take from six months to a year before they are exposed to volunteers, and then to the public. Her duties include feeding and handling birds on a glove to improve their comfort levels with humans, and doing educational presentations for the public.
Generally considered the preeminent facility for raptor rehabilitation in the world, Williams has learned a lot from the small, world-class staff and dedicated volunteer base of nearly 250.
“The people that I work with are so knowledgeable. I learn something every time I’m there,” Williams said. “I love getting that close to the birds, and educating people about them.”
The team of employees has made the experience that much more enjoyable for Williams.
“Everybody wants to, and loves being there,” Williams said. “To me, it’s the best place in the world and the most positive environment I’ve ever worked in.”
*Established in 1974 as part of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, The Raptor Center rehabilitates more than 700 sick and injured raptors each year, while helping to identify emerging environmental issues related to raptor health and populations. An internationally renowned education facility, The Raptor Center trains
veterinary students and veterinarians from around the world to become future leaders in raptor medicine and conservation. In addition, The Raptor Center reaches more than 200,000 people annually through its unique public education programs and events.*
For volunteer information, click here.
*Taken from The University of Minnesota Raptor Center website.